15 Worst Marketing Buzzwords of 2018

We’re all guilty of using marketing buzzwords and phrases from time to time as we tell the world about the stuff we make. But, leading? Leads what? Revolutionary? Didn’t know we were comparing content management systems to the 18th Century American revolt against Great Britain. The trick for marketers is trying to ferret out the buzzwords and just get to the goods, put the focus on explaining what our products and services do and why it will improve your life.

Without further ado, here are some of the top marketing buzzwords from 2018. Perhaps it’s time to consider avoiding using some of them in your 2019 marketing pitches.

1. Value-Add

The marketing buzzword nobody should use is value-add, according to Stacy Caprio, founder of her.ceo. This is commonly used in a sentence such as the following, ‘We need to see if this program is going to be a value-add before we commit to it.’

“It’s an overused word,” Caprio said, “and I think instead of vaguely throwing out the buzzword value-add, you should say something more specific that actually has meaning.” In that vein, Caprio suggested a sentence more like: ‘We need to see if this program is going to actually increase revenue before we commit to it.’ “When you get specific like that,” she said, “it makes it more clear the goal you’re trying to reach with the program and what type of value it would need to make sense to keep.”

2. Generate Business

I have a strong distaste for pitches that contain the term ‘generate business,'” said Hung Nguyen, marketing manager for smallpdf.com. “Why? Because what defines ‘business’? Are you trying to help me to generate and optimize for leads, sales, conversions, traffic or social media engagement? The term is meaningless. The worse ones are those that include the phrase as part of their subject line.”

3. Content is King

“Content is king” is a phrase marketers used in the organic heydays of social media, according Ryan Goff, CMO and social media marketing director for MGH. But, he added, as social networks have evolved, the quality of content has lost steam to smart, paid strategies. “Promoting good content has become just as, if not more, important to reaching new audiences,” Goff said. “Yes, content still matters. But for most advertisers, without continuous paid support and tweaks to one’s paid strategies, that content won’t get very far.”

4. Data-Driven

All of marketing and business strategy should be data-driven, said Aaron Endré, a marketing communications specialist. “This is not a unique skill that will set marketers apart in 2018,” Endré added. “What will set them apart is their ability to explain how data analysis translates to value. That translation is where most marketers fall on their face.”

5. Low-Hanging Fruit

Our team nixed this buzzword altogether when speaking with clients due to its “misleading and lazy connotation,” said Alex Weinbaum, senior account strategist with SiO Digital. “What’s low-hanging fruit to us may not be to another agency or marketing professional, and for that, it’s disregarding our expertise simply because we know how to do something easily. By using the phrase in weekly, monthly and quarterly meeting, we unintentionally downgrade our success and strategic thinking.”

6. Optimizing

What does “optimizing” even actually mean, asks Cooper Hollmaier, technical SEO manager at Visiture. “As digital marketers, we’ve gotten away with using this as a blanket term for too long,” Hollmaier said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked about the specific steps our team is going to take to resolve an issue and the word optimizing comes up. Being direct and talking about the real actions and results will let your team back away from this buzzword and provide more value for clients.”

7. Growth Hacking

Joe Horine, director of customer success at AUDIENCEX, called “growth hacking” a meaningless phrase. “The immediate connotation of hacking, or being a hacker, is tied to coding,” Horine said. “Life hacks became a popular phrase for making your life easier, which is why I assume some clever marketer created growth hacking.” Growth hacking doesn’t involve any sort of coding, Horine said, and while you can make the argument that a marketing effort is making growth easier for a company, that is such a simplistic characterization that undersells the value of any uniquely valuable efforts. “It is also so broad that it could apply to any growth-based effort,” Horine said. “Double your sales force … growth hack! Launch a new website … growth hack! Create a revolutionary product that will change the ecommerce space forever … GROWTH HACK!”

8. Pivot to Video

Some marketers have been pushing their clients to make a ton of video content. This, however, is based on the inaccurate assumption that people don’t read anything anymore, according to Lindsay V. Wissman, copywriter at The Content Factory. “It’s actually a bit insulting to the consumer,” Wissman said. “People still read. They just don’t want to read your super long Facebook post.” Further, Facebook is being sued for lying about their metrics in order to push people toward video content so they could sell more ads. “So some people have wasted a lot of money making videos that weren’t watched as often as they thought,” Wissman said. “The bottom line is that there are only two industries where video content curation makes sense: food, and in a very distant second, beauty.”

9. Synergy

E-intelligence CEO Jitesh Keswani said “synergy” has been solely used by businesses, as opposed to common people, as it means cooperation of two people or more. “I have seen teams discussing ways to gain synergy,” he said, “but I guess it comes on its own when there is cooperation to offer the actual value.”

10. Influencer

The worst marketing buzzword for 2018 was “influencer,” according to Nick Stagge, VP of marketing for ExpertVoice. “Since today’s version of influencer marketing busted onto the scene around 2012, we’ve been hounded with the idea that influencers, those individuals with tons of followers, are authentic and can really make a difference on a company’s bottom line,” Stagge said. “In fact, influencers who are paid by a company to hawk goods or an idea are just another form of paid media, and that payment completely undermines authenticity.” Unfortunately, the term influencer marketing is so well ingrained now that there’s no getting rid of it, he added. “While the term may be here to stay,” Stagge said, “marketers still have time to adjust their thinking about the true effectiveness and authenticity of influencers.”

11. AI

AI [artificial intelligence] is this year’s winner for the most overused buzzword in the industry, said Philip Smolin, chief strategy officer for Amobee. “The reason is a lack of a standard definition,” Smolin said. “Any vendor with an algorithm performing any task can declare: ‘We’re powered by AI!’ Here’s a trick: Ask your vendor how their AI works. If they begin with, ‘Well, the algorithm…’ you should run for the hills screaming.”

Good AI is never a single algorithm, Smolin added. It’s an ensemble of technologies across machine learning, deep learning and natural language processing working together in concert. AI is dependent on data. “You can have the best algorithms in the world,” Smolin said, “but unless it’s tapping into great data, it’s useless. So assuming you have great algorithms powered by great data, can AI move the needle for your business? Absolutely.” AI can be phenomenal at automating common tasks and finding hidden insights, Smolin said. This, he added, can make your marketing team smarter and more effective.

12. Thought Leader

Thought leader has to go, according to Gennady Litvin, attorney at Moshes Law. “What [exactly] is a ‘thought leader’ anyway? Litvin asked. “Someone who leads thoughts? What does that even mean? You can’t lead thoughts. You lead people. You influence thinking and thought patterns, but you don’t ‘lead thoughts.’ So this phrase needs to go because it’s overused and it really makes no sense.”

Thought leader is being used by everyone, which takes away the initial credibility of the title. “No one gets excited when they see sand, sand is everywhere,” Litvin added. “The title ‘thought leader’ is like sand, and it’s time to move on.”

13. Brand Awareness

Sarah Scott, founder of Amboxie, finds “brand awareness” overrated and, in a lot of cases, misleading. Brand awareness is important when it comes to marketing, but it’s not the be-all of marketing, she added. “First of all, marketing is supposed to help a company generate sales,” Scott said. “If you can’t prove your marketing efforts in a dollar value, then your marketing isn’t working.”

Brand awareness is a contributor to generating sales and part of a marketing strategy, but way too many marketers use brand awareness as their sole focus and pitch. “Video views do not equal a positive ROI,” she said. “Marketers needs to stop telling companies they need to raise brand awareness. As a marketer, you should already be doing that on a day-to-day basis. But your marketing strategy shouldn’t be focused on only brand awareness, it should be focused on how to generate business.”

14. Revolutionary

The term ‘revolutionary’ reminds Wes Marsh of the Eric Church song, “Kill a Word.” Marsh, director of digital marketing for DigitalUs, said the PC, iPhone and a certain Shot heard round the world back in 1776 all classify as being revolutionary. “Changing how people use or buy a martech product is not changing the world, so we’ve eliminated this phrase from our office,” Marsh said. “Yes, we work with clients who are doing lots of new things in martech, but we’re not going to over-hype it. Instead, clearly focusing on the benefits that our clients enjoy from our services is proving far more effective at not just attracting, but ultimately converting leads into sales.”

15. Paradigm Shift

Matt Garrepy, chief digital officer at Solodev, said the ‘paradigm shift’ phrase makes his skin crawl. During a meeting at a large software company in Silicon Valley, a marketing leader blurted out “paradigm shift,” Garrepy recalled. One of his team members asked: “What’s a paradigm, and should we be shifting it?” Garrepy said this was telling about the confusion it creates. “Just Google it: there are dozens of books about paradigm shifts and shifting, everything from IT to self help. As marketers — particularly content developers — I think we have to develop a keen sense for when words and ideas might be due for retirement, so we can minimize confusion and better communicate ideas.”

Source: Dom Nicastro via the CMS Wire Marketing Blog


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